“Hey!” Jack said, but was too late to reach over and grab Beth. She leapt away, jumping up on his bed, on tiptoes, stretching to reach the dreamcatcher.
Beth ignored him, her fingers busy at the knots of his dreamcatcher. She took it down, cradling it across the fingers of one hand. She stepped lightly from Jack’s bed.
“I need light.”
Jack scooted his chair over, dragging the tray to clear space on his desk below the lamp.
Beth grabbed one of Jack’s sketchbooks, setting it within the pool of yellowish light, and laid the dreamcatcher on it. She reached up, running her fingers through her hair, then gasped as she gave a sharp tug. There was a puff of sparkling motes.
Jack watched as she began twining the bright strands of hair she’d pulled through the patterns of brown and gray threads. The golden motes glimmered less and less as she worked, winking out by the time she’d finished. Jack watched one of the last ones drift into his soup, not even leaving a ripple or reflection.
“That will have to do,” she said, holding the dreamcatcher up, turning it this way and that under the light.
She hopped back up on Jack’s bed, and rehung the ornament. She watched it turn, adjusted the knots, then watched it turn again, nodding. Then she took the garland off, and stretched, hooking it over the carved tile that Jack and his dad had nailed into place over the window.
“Are you done jumping on my bed?” Jack asked.
She stuck her tongue out at him. “You’ll thank me in the morning,” she said. She pointed to the tray and half-empty bowl of soup. “Are you done?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Good as the soup was, his stomach was still queasy.
Beth dropped from Jack’s bed, padding around Jack, and pointed to a small cup on the left corner of the tray. Two more of the pale yellow pills sat in it.
She folded her arms across her chest.
He picked up the pill cup, glowering up at the girl.
“You’re enjoying this.”
She smiled, but it wasn’t mirthful. She shook her head, but Jack saw that her eyes had taken that strange depth that they did right before someone starts crying.
“Please, Jack, take them.”
He frowned at the little plastic cup. “They make me groggy in the morning.”
“You have to take them, Jack. You need to sleep.”
“I’ll be able to sleep just fine without them.”
Beth drew in a deep breath, but it wasn’t steady.
“Okay, fine. Look, I’m taking them,” Jack said, bringing the cup up and tipping the pills into his mouth. He washed the them down with a long swallow of nearly-cold cider.
Rather than tears, the girl’s breath came out with a sigh. She picked up the tray.
“Thank you,” she said.
Jack frowned. “For what?”
“For letting me help you for once.”
She padded from Jack’s room, closing the door after her before he could ask her what she meant.
He yawned. He was already tired, and they were only pills. He crawled back into his bed, pulling the comforter up over his chin. The golden hairs woven through his dream catcher glimmered as it spun gently right, then left.